Living in Japan
Japanese culture shines among rich East Asian cultures with its unique and fascinating blend of ancient traditions and modern innovations. Japanese culture, from its distinctive cuisine and tea ceremonies to its ancient arts and poetries, has been shaped by its thousands of years of history and distinctive geography. Japanese culture has been defined by its features of discipline and respect which you may see among the daily lives of the Japanese people. Popular culture has been gradually becoming a significant part of Japan’s soft power with a huge following around the world. Anime, manga, and video games are all known among a global audience, while its fashion, especially streetwear, is also gaining popularity around the world.
The roots of the Japanese language remain unclear, despite several arguments regarding the origins of the language. The Japanese writing system consists of three different character sets: Hiragana and Katakana (two syllabaries of 46 characters; together called kana) and Kanji (thousands of Chinese characters). Learning the Japanese language is highly recommended as it is often used among ordinary Japanese people, whereas English or other second languages are not significantly used but communicable.
Japan has no official religion as stated in the constitution, compared to Cambodia. However, Shinto and Buddhism are Japan’s two major religions. Although the majority of the Japanese people do not associate themselves with any religious organizations or claim themselves as a part of any religion, this does not make the Japanese society less religious. Different religious practices are usually made differently among different occasions. For instance, Shinto practices are for new year ceremonies, Christianity is for wedding ceremonies, and Buddhism is for funerals.
Way of Life
Japanese ways of life are shaped by a variety of cultural factors, including traditional values, modern influences, and the country’s unique history and geography. However, there are several key aspects of Japanese ways of life which we can emphasize:
- Respect for others: this is reflected in the country’s formal etiquette, which emphasizes polite language, bowing, and other forms of deference.
- Focus on discipline: this is seen in the country’s martial arts, which emphasize rigorous training and self-control, as well as in its education system, which places a strong emphasis on discipline and hard work.
- Attention to detail: this can be seen in everything from the country’s traditional arts to its ways of work.
- Love of nature: this is reflected in the country’s traditional gardens, which are designed to evoke a sense of harmony and balance with nature. Beautiful nature is often found everywhere across the country, from small villages to big cities.
- Emphasis on community and uniformity: this is reflected in the country’s group-oriented culture, which emphasizes the importance of working together for the greater good. We may see as well that uniformity in Japan is strong, making it a society where the majority, if not all, of the people follow the rules, keep the places clean and safe.
- Respect for tradition: this can be seen in the country’s many festivals, traditional crafts, and other cultural practices which are often enjoyed by everyone, including young and old Japanese men and women.
In Japan, apartments are usually rented through real estate agents rather than landlords. You may find different showcases through listings of available apartments in the companies’ show windows or on the websites. To be notified, the rental system of many conventional real estate companies is not very foreigner-friendly, which is often found difficult for the non-Japanese people or speakers. Moreover, while entering a rental contract with a conventional real estate company is highly expensive, a number of refundable and non-refundable fees have to be paid, often totaling two or more months’ rent, depending on the company’s policies:
- Reservation fee (tetsukekin)
- Deposit (shikikin)
- Key money (reikin)
- Service fee (chukai tesuryo)
In most cases, apartments come unfurnished, utilities are not included in the rent, pets may or may not be allowed. However, there are real estate companies, which specifically target foreign communities in Japan, existing mainly in big metropolitan areas, including and obviously Tokyo. While private apartments may be expensive for foreign students, different kinds of accommodations are also suggested, including school’s dormitories, shared houses…
While public transportation is commonly popular in Japan, GoogleMap or other navigation maps may be very helpful for the new unfamiliar residents in Japan. In GoogleMap, you may find the nearest train or bus stations, transportation lines, estimated traveling times, as well as estimated traveling costs. Although public transportation is convenient and popular in Japan’s big cities, the total daily expenses on public transportation may be high. Therefore, the usage of students’ transportation pass is recommended. With a student ID card and designated destination from home to school, we are able to buy a monthly package that is way cheaper, but only for designated train stations between home and school, and stations in between. Please approach metro servicemen/women in your nearest stations to buy that monthly package. How to buy metro card in Japan: https://youtu.be/9TuVRCXynpA
Post offices provide a range of postal services, including the shipping of postcards, letters, parcels and register mail, as well as savings and insurance services. Besides Japan Post, you may find various door-to-door delivery services in Japan. In Japan, addresses are often written as they start with the postal code, followed by the prefecture, city and sub-area(s), sub-area numbers, and end with the recipient’s name. Link to Japan Post: https://www.post.japanpost.jp/index_en.html
Yamato Transport is a leading convenient delivery service-provider in Japan. Through this service-provider, you may be able to deliver a range of goods, including regular parcels, oversized boxes, cooled or frozen foods, computers, furniture, travel bags and suitcases, with affordable costs. One smart way to use the services as a traveler is to send your goods from your home by scheduling a pick-up time with the nearest service center. Alternatively, they can be dropped off at most of the countless convenience stores found across the country, luggage counters at airports and major railway stations. For further information, Yamato Transport: https://www.kuronekoyamato.co.jp/en/
Banking services in Japan are conventional but a little less convenient, especially for non-Japanese speakers. Among several big banks in Japan, Jpan Post Bank is usually used by mostly foreign scholarship-holders in Japan as it is required by the Japan’s Ministry of Education. Therefore, opening a Japan Post Bank account is a must. Japanese ATMs are convenient, especially for users to withdraw, deposit and transfer money. While the number of 24hour ATMs is increasing, most ATMS maintain business hours and are closed for a few hours each night. However, ATMs in several convenience stores may be 24/7 available and friendly to many types of banks in Japan as well as international VISA cards. Whenever you have your home address set after settling in Japan, please bring your essential documents with you to the nearest Japan Post Bank branch. A Hanko (or Japanese personal seal/stamp) may be needed in order to open a bank account or proceed with banking documents. Find more information here: https://www.jp-bank.japanpost.jp/en_index.html
By no doubt, Japan has been known for its high living costs, whereas Tokyo has been on the list of the world’s top ten most expensive cities. The nationwide average monthly rent, not including utilities, for a one room apartment (20-40 square meters) is between 50,000 yen and 70,000 yen. The costs may be doubled if the similarly sized apartments are located in central Tokyo and popular neighborhoods. The average cost for utilities for one person is around 10,000 yen a month: about 5,000 yen for electricity, 3,000 yen for gas and 2000 yen for water.
Whereas mobile pounds are readily available to those with a valid residence card and a Japanese bank account, conventional subscription plans are available from around 6,000 yen a month or around 2,000 yen a month for cheaper plans offered by discount operators. A pocket Wi-Fi device may be considered as well with monthly fees from 2,500 yen. Otherwise, paid Wi-Fi-hotspots and cafes offer alternative options for internet access aside from the school campuses.
Groceries and eating out
There is not much difference between home cooking or eating out for a single person. As local supermarkets are relatively inexpensive for typical Japanese food like seasonal vegetables and meats, cheap restaurants may offer decent sets of meals for between 500 yen and 1,000 yen. A meal at a more average restaurant may cost more than 1,000 yen. Cheap bentos may be found at all convenience stores across the country. Roughly, the total monthly expense may be around 10,000 yen to 12,000 yen for a decent lifestyle.
Supported reference: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e625.html